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Meta bans Myanmar military-owned telco from Facebook

Tim Newton

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Myanmar’s military junta chief has woken up to find his partly-owned telecom company Mytel being barred from Facebook as Meta, Facebook and Instagram’s new company umbrella, is pulling the plug on business related to the Tatmadaw, the Burmese military. Facebook has nearly 29 million users in Myanmar, in a country with a population of 54 million.

Mytel is on of four major telecommunications companies in Myanmar. Mytel is operated in a joint venture between the Burmese military and Viettel, owned by Vietnam’s Ministry of National Defence.

Now Meta has announced that it is banning Burmese military-controlled businesses from the Facebook platform, currently the most popular social media in Myanmar. The sweep wipes out pages, groups and accounts related to businesses owned either directly by the military or businesses associated with military-owned businesses as shareholders.

It’s a second round of bans and deletions for Facebook. Just before implementing restrictions back in February, just after the army coup, Facebook said that it was working to “significantly reduce the distribution of all content” on pages and profiles run by the Tatmadaw.

Facebook’s latest move comes as the popular social media platform facs mounting criticism over its failure to prevent the circulation of fake news and hate speech in Myanmar.

Lawyers from the US and the UK have launched a US$150 billion lawsuit on behalf of Rohingya refugees, alleging that the social media network was used to “foment violence against the minority Rohingya population”.

More than 730,000 Rohingya people fled Rakhine State since atrocities in August 2017 when military-led mass executions, gang rapes, and arson were used as part of a genocidal campaign that has been roundly condemned by the UN and individual governments.

Rights groups and UN investigators have been calling out Meta to remove any Myanmar military-associated businesses from its platform. Facebook has become the go-to social media for Burmese people since the Junta seized power in February this year although the Junta have done their best to limit social media by turning off many of the state-owned telecommunications towers.

A Facebook employee told local media outlet Myanmar Now that the firm has taken action against “hundreds” of additional accounts and pages linked to military-controlled enterprises, including Mytel.

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State, before 2017 a population of around 1 million people.

Burmese buddhists, generally, don’t count the Rohingya as citizens, nor as being one of Myanmar’s recognised ethnic groups.

Facebook, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, previously acknowledged they hadn’t done enough to prevent the platform from being used to spread hate speech and fuel bloodshed, but promised to increase their internal moderation efforts by employing more native Burmese language speakers.

 

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    Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for 41 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program (public radio Australia), presented over 11,000 radio news bulletins, 3,900 in Thailand alone, hosted 1050 daily TV news programs and produced 2,100 videos, TV commercials and documentaries. He also reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and other major stories in Thailand. As founder of The Thaiger in 2016, Tim is the current CEO for the company, based in their Bangkok HQ.

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